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Reclaiming the Yom Ha’atzmaut Prayer Service

April 29, 2012 – 7:58 pm51 Comments

By Mark Symons

Every year, the Melbourne Orthodox community conducts a communal Yom Ha’atzmaut  (Israeli Independence Day) prayer service. But it is a community service in name only. The rabbis and presidents of most Orthodox congregations do attend (most rabbis being allocated parts of the service to lead), but very few of their members. The overwhelming majority of the attendants tend to be Mizrachi members, the venue where the service is always held.

Possible reasons for this are:

• The service may be perceived as a Mizrachi one (apart from the venue, Mizrachi plays a major role in organising the service and its format; its members take a disproportionate part in leading it) so that others may feel excluded.

• People may not regard a special Yom Ha’atzmaut prayer service as important – perhaps this view is shared by the rabbis and leaders of the other congregations; perhaps the rabbis and leaders do regard it as important, but don’t strongly push it; perhaps they do push it, but don’t succeed in motivating their congregants to share their views or put them into practice.

• People are very parochial when it comes to shules, and often don’t feel inclined to attend services at shules other than their own, which they feel part of.

One solution may be to hold the service at another synagogue. That should at least lead to increased attendance from members of that synagogue, as they would feel more “ownership” of it, especially if their rabbi and leaders promoted it. Perhaps there would be an advantage in a venue like Caulfield Shule, which may be perceived as more “neutral”, and belonging to the community as a whole. (Seating both men and women downstairs would fill the considerably larger space more effectively, as well as allowing the women to feel less like spectators). One would expect that Mizrachi members, being Religious Zionists already committed to the importance of prayer being an integral part celebrating Israel’s independence, would attend wherever the service is held.

But I believe that the best way to increase attendance and participation is to abandon the attempt at the community service, and for Yom Ha’atzmaut prayer to be reclaimed by the individual congregations.  It’s time to treat Yom Ha’atzmaut as a “real” chag – so that just as each individual congregation holds its own service, in its own way, for Pesach, Rosh Hashana, and Purim, so they should now do for Chag Ha’atzmaut.

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  • Harry Joachim says:

    As Mizrachi congregants are the core religious Zionists in Melbourne, I shouldn’t think that holding the service elsewhere will attract greater numbers.

    The not-so-religious aren’t interested, and the Chabadniks, Adassniks, and Beis HaTalmud members (and their associated shuls) will not participate on principle owing to their philosophy vis a vis the State of Israel.

  • Yaron says:

    Harry,

    Unfortunately it would seem that the Mizrachi members are also not interested in what they are offering. There are regularly empty seats all through the shule during the Yom Ha’atzmaut tefilla.

    There are a number of reasons for this:
    1. The service begins at 5:30pm to accommodate the minority that go to the community concert afterwards (remember some people have jobs)
    2. There are usually a series of uninspiring (and sometimes non-Zionist) speakers
    3. It takes over 1.5 hours

    It is for this reason that a second minyan at Katanga (a Zionist shule from its inception) attracted significant numbers, through word of mouth only.

    I am not suggesting that we should close the Mizrachi tefilla, but that people should have a choice not to go the unnecessarily long and tedious event at Mizrachi.

    Mizrachi does not have a monopoly on Religious-Zionism.

  • Ian Waller says:

    Mark- you raise some interesting ideas, although I see real value in a communal tefillah.
    As to venue, I think Harry’s points are well made.
    Yaron – The attendance this year was outstanding with no empty seats and quite a few people standing. And the guest speaker, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, was both Zionist and inspiring. Moreover, the feedback from those who attended the tefillah has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact an Israeli shaliach commented that the tefillah was “wonderful … very mechubad (dignified) and merugash (emotional)”.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    “a second minyan at Katanga (a Zionist shule from its inception)”

    I believe that Katanga is so Zionist that they don’t say Tachanun all year round, not just on Yom Haatzmaut!

  • Yaron says:

    Ian,
    I am in no way saying that what Mizrachi does is a bad thing, and if people want to go to that tefilla that is their choice, but I am not alone in avoiding the Mizrachi services for the reasons I listed. In fact I have not been for a number of years primarily for the length and style.

    My issue with the Mizrachi service is that alternatives are frowned upon and attacked as destroying communal unity.

    I will gladly NOT attend the Mizrachi service and not complain if others would be willing to grant the same courtesy to any other minyan that chooses to conduct Yom Haatzmaut davening.

    Harry,

    Relevancy?

    Or is your entire existence validated by a series of cheap shots at groups that you do not like?

  • Religious Zionist says:

    Yaron, it is not surprising that Katanga chose to be tifrosh min hatzibur (particularly the Mizrachi one). It is a shule that way inclined since its inception.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Yaron said: “Relevancy? Or is your entire existence validated by a series of cheap shots at groups that you do not like?”

    Like you, Yaron, I used to daven at Katanga.

    I was simply making the point in my previous posting that Katanga has a tendency to omit tachanun every single day, so it is nothing out of the ordinary that they should likewise do so on Yom Haatzmaut.

    I was attributing this practice – in jest, of course – to the shul being so Zionistic that it is machmir in its refusal to say Tachanun on all days of the year, not just Yom Haatzmaut.

    For those of who know Katanga well, the shul’s attitude towards tachanun is merely one of the colourful happenings in that strange corner of Melbourne Jewry…

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Ian Waller: “The attendance this year was outstanding with no empty seats and quite a few people standing. And the guest speaker, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, was both Zionist and inspiring.”

    I’d love to read the text of the Rabbi’s speech. Any idea if it, or a video of it, is available online?

  • Harry – they just follow the old adage: “when in doubt, leave it out”

  • Mark Symons says:

    Ian – and others who may know:

    Despite the high attendance at Mizrachi this year (being on a public holiday is likely to have been an important factor in that), was the overwhelming majority of attendants still Mizrachi people?

    Religious Zionist:

    Re “al tifrosh min hatzibbur” (which I also agree is an important Jewish principle of not separating oneself from the community)- my point is that in practice, it is not really the tzibbur that is holding the service in question. I also davvened at the service at Katanga (which was held at 8pm, and wasn’t actually an “official” Katanga service; whereas the one held there the next morning was, which included full Hallel with a B’racha, special “Haftara” etc)

  • ariel says:

    I attended the tefilla in Sydney this year.
    As the entire Yom Haatzmaut event was held at Moriah College, the tefillah was in their shule.
    As one who has participated in the tefilla in past years at Bnei’s ma’on and other venues, I estimate that this year’s tefillah was the most well attended.

    Also, there were no speeches in the shule. Rather those who wanted that sort of thing could go to the concert next door afterwards.

    Perhaps tefilla was well attended because it started at 6pm or because it was a public holiday.

    However, as Yaron says, in the past it has started at 5:30pm, which is way too early for those with jobs.

    Perhaps Mizrachi should consider holding the tefillah at the same venue as the Melbourne communal-wide celebration and leaving the speeches for another day?

  • Ari says:

    First let’s start with reclaiming Erev Shabbes and Shabbes Mincha at many of the shules in Melbourne. The issue it seems is that most of the frum commun ity in Melbourne, those who are actually bothered to show up to Shabbes Mincha, wouldn’t know a nes if it hit them on the head three times with a heavy steel bicycle. Too worried about looking over their shoulder for that – oh and also worrying about bicycles being chukos hagoyim.

  • Gedalia says:

    In Perth there was a “whole of community” tefillah at Carmel School. It was promoted by Bnei Akiva and not affiliated with any one shule, yet attendance was predominetly from one Shule. The event was strucutred to precede the community celebration, but sadly was not integrated into it. The concept has been actively evolved in recent years, but still has a long way to go to realise its objective of reaching the broader community with exposure to religious zionism.

    From a totally altruistic viewpoint, if the whole of the Jewish community in every Austrlian Jewish community (in each City) can pull together will a collective tefillah chagigit for Yom Haatzmaut then it makes a strong statement. It is an occasion where all who have an interest can drive to the location, and it is an opportunity to project a message of unity. On the basis that Israel is a nation that unifies the Jewish people, if we are unable to replicate that just one time a year by moving beyond the branded dalad amot of our own Shules then it is a very sad mark of division. The very notion of tefillah b’tzibor can be extended with a very powerful message if it is properly structured.

  • Yaron says:

    Gedalia,

    While I appreciate people’s desires to have a communal show of strength it does not reflect the reality.

    I remember looking around at the last Yom Haatzmaut davening at Mizrachi and noticing only a handful of people from 25-40.

    We have Shabbat minyanim that cater to people who want a professional chazan, more singing, less singing and greater women’s participation. Why should this not be reflected on Yom Haatzmaut?

    Why should I be forced to go to a non-Zionist minyan on Yom Haatzmaut because the only show in town is so painful for me.

    And I am not alone in thinking this. Hence the numbers at Katanga.

  • Mark Symons says:

    I would still like to hear from Rabbis, lay leaders and especially congregants of other shules.

    Rabbis and Lay Leaders: Do you think more of your congregants would be more likely to attend a Yom Ha’atzmaut service if it were held
    (a) in Caulfield Synagogue?
    (b) in your own shule?

    Congregants: Do you think you be more likely to attend a Yom Ha’atzmaut service if it were held
    (a) in Caulfield Synagogue?
    (b) in your own shule?

  • TheSadducee says:

    Mark

    Considering I’m from Canberra, I’d prefer my own shule rather than Caulfield.

  • frosh says:

    (c) You like your shul to be religious but prefer your Zionism secular.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    (c)

  • Ari says:

    Frosh and Mandy:
    Although you may not be the correct people to answer this, since you raise the issue:

    Can a religious Jew’s Zionism or anti-zionism be secular?

    (Not all religious Zionism is with a ‘R’ nor is it messianic)

  • Yaron says:

    Frosh and Mandi,

    The religious side of Yom Ha’atzmaut has always been about thanksgiving for the creation of the state and that the Arabs did not succeed in wiping us out.

    It has nothing to do with any particular philosophy of Zionism. Rather it is above any specific Zionist idea. It is about thanking God for what was done for us.

    It is the same with Yom Yerushalayim. It is not about our view of the lands conquered/liberated on that day, but about appreciation for the survival of the State of Israel through the very dark days in 1967.

    Unfortunately people on all three sides of the debate (left wing, right wing and non/anti-Zionist) have chosen to politicise these days, and by doing so marginalise many people who may be willing to participate in these teffilot.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Yaron
    I would have thought it more appropriate to thank Hashem for the Czechs rather than for the failure of the Arabs.

  • R B says:

    The low number of participants in the service may reflect a more sober view of Israel among young frums – a realisation that it is not the idalistic state they learnt about in the Jewish-Zionist day school or at the Zionist youth movement.

    These young people spent long periods in Israel in projects like Taglit, read about it online, and know that it is not exactly “Reshis Tzemihat Geulatenu” – it is merely a pseudo-Western, mostly secular state, which everyday life are far from both Zionist idealism and Judaism, and aims at the normal Western lifestyle. Morever, the elite which runs the country (although not ruling it currently) is, to a large extent, non-Zionist and/or hostile towards Judaism as a religion.

    True, it is a home to half of the Jews in the world and as such it deserves sympathy, but it is not a state to pray for Hashem about in its national holiday.

  • ariel says:

    RB,

    I think if you see what Yaron is saying, the emphasis on “Reishit Tzmihat Ge’ulateinu” is on the word “Reishit”.

    It is the very establishment and existence of Medinat Yisrael (vis a vis which Rav Soloveichik famously said that the government and Knesset of the day have the status of “Melech Yisrael”) which is the Reishit of the ge’ula.

    You would find very few who claim that the state of the State today is ideal. Like everything else Hashem gives us, it is incomplete – a “Reishit”. It is our responsibility to take that blossom and perfect it through hard work.

    The drifting over the last number of years (particularly since the disengagement from Gaza) of religious zionists away from belief in the State as a gift from Hashem is saddening. It is a misunderstanding of the whole concept of what we are thankful for.

    Therefore, we thank Hashem for giving us this blossom and ask him to provide the Melech Yisrael with the right vision and intentions to perfect the Medina.

    Gd knows it’s a hard job, but it’s our responsibility to work at it.

  • Ari and Yaron,

    It may be the case that you could have a Yom Haatzmaut prayer service that simply includes thanks-giving and is not messianic but to clarify, I’m assuming that you are not suggesting this is what happens at Misrahi.

    Moreover, even if it could theoretically be possible, I think it would be difficult to do it in a way that is comfortable for people with a range of political and religious views.

  • Yaron says:

    1. At Katanga we had a tefilla that was not political in any way. It was followed by a thanksgiving meal of pita and felafel.

    An apolitical service is possible, and if individuals are uncomfortable with Katanga as a shule then I would encourage them to take Mark’s suggestion and start their own minyan.

    2. As to the nature of the day – the Rambam suggests that one of the big parts of Hanuka is that the Jews regained their independence for several centuries.

    That we have our independence in our own state is something worth celebrating, no matter how flawed the state is.

    We should look back to the pre-state Jews. Think back to what they were going through. Our ability to question a deeply flawed state is a luxury that we should appreciate.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Yaron

    The Rambam is partly wrong on this point. The Temple was certainly liberated (and Jerusalem) but the Maccabees had several more years of conflict with the Seleucids before independence for the majority of Jewish people in the area.

    And the quality of this independence was questionable as the Maccabees themselves had no real authority other than that of conquest. And they shamefully usurped the High Priesthood from its legitimate holder(s) and engaged in many high-handed and foreign practices (things that they had originally opposed in the first place).

    The recreation of the state should be seen as a secular holiday celebrating our national rebirth. Religion/Hashem had nothing to directly do with it.

  • Yaron,

    I’m guessing that if I ask whether you mentioned reishit smichat geulatenu, you will point to Rambam’s interpretation of geula, which is fair enough.

    By the way, I wasn’t criticising Katanga’s service.

    For me, if the shul that I went to was holding prayers on Yom Haatzmaut anyway, then I would be comfortable with doing the additional bits and interpreting it in the tradition of Rambam.

    I guess for me in terms of doing something extra, I am only going to do one thing for Yom Haatzmaut. If I make that an additional shul service then it feels like that says something about Yom Haatzmaut being an exclusively Jewish event whereas it should be an event for Jews and Israelis regardless of religion. Also, given the divide between secular and religious Jews in Israel, it feels like this kind of ceremony says something about the character of Israel as well. There may, however, be ways of getting around these points. If people from my shul wanted to do such a service, I wouldn’t be against them doing it at all and could potentially be persuaded into attending depending on the content.

  • ariel says:

    TheSaducee,

    For most religious Jews, Hashem has everything to do with everything that happens, directly or indirectly.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Ariel

    That way madness lies – it leads to bizarre and offensive speculation like was the Shoah an act of Hashem’s anger against our people?

  • ariel says:

    Let’s discuss that question on a different page.

  • Yaron says:

    Sadducee,

    My point is not the historical reality (which is not as clear cut as the religious ‘history’ books suggest), but that independence is something that should be celebrated, and Hanuka is the precedent.

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Rachel,
    I don’t think holding a tefillah service makes Yom Haatzmaut into a divisive holiday showcasing the rift between religious & secular elements in Israel. One doesn’t have to believe that the state has any messianic value, or even any religious value, to be able to give thanks for what it provides – an opportunity for Jewish autonomy and self defence, a safe haven for those persecuted around the world (then and now), etc.

    Pesach, Shavuot & Sukkot celebrate milestones in the year’s agricultural cycle – this is something which can be viewed positively from a secular paradigm (being thankful for this year’s abundance) or from a religious paradigm (thanking God for His role in it) or both. Seder night is very widely celebrated throughout the Jewish world regardless of religious affiliation. Holding tefillah on Pesach night or any other chag doesn’t detract from this. As religious Jews one way we respond to events and give thanks is through tefillah and it is appropriate that the same should apply on Yom Haatzmaut.

  • R B says:

    Felafel? I don’t think that Israelis consider it as their national dish any more. Hummus is a better choice.

    And I disgaree about connecting the establishment of Israel to messianic ideas like Ge’ula. Zionism, the idea which created Israel, is simply a derivative of the 19th century’s European nationalism, and it seems to follow the same historic route and be replaced by other Western, secular political fashions. It has nothing to do with ancient, eternal Jewish ideas and beliefs.

  • ariel says:

    I thought everyone might be interested in this article.

    Why Haredim should be Zionist

    RB, it’s worthwhile noting in addition, that the Vilna Ga’on wrote that the restoration of Jewish sovreignty in Israel was a necessary prelude to the coming of Mashiach and that it had to happen by the year 5750, ie 1990.

  • Yaron says:

    RB,
    Why can’t it be both: political/historical and divine? Why do they have to be mutually exclusive?

    But again everyone has the choice to decide for themselves what the state means to them…

    Which leads me to another point that someone mentioned to me over Shabbat:

    The RCV are co-sponsors of the event in Mizrachi.

    The overwhelming majority of the RCV’s rabbis are not Zionist or anti Zionist. Most do not attend. Most of those that do attend do not fully participate.

    Should we not be demanding more from our rabbinate? Like that they represent their congregations?

  • R B says:

    This is not a question of mutual exclusiveness. I simply think that the attempts to assign a messianic/spiritual meaning to the state of Israel – a product of secular nationalism – is basically mistaken.

    The existence of Israel, as a Jewish state, depends on historical processes and on internal and international politics, no matter what messianic meanings people try to assign to it, and especially when it comes to people who decided of they own will – any Australian Jew can make Aliyah tomorrow morning and become an Israeli citizen – not to live there.

    It is possible that the Israelis will decide one day (keep in mind that 80% of Israeli Jews are secular), that they don’t want to continue the struggle to survive in the hostile Middle East in order to satisfy messianic/spiritual aspirations of religious Jews, definitely those who live overseas. It is also possible that the international community will force Israel to abolish its self-definition as a Jewish state and impose a South African-style solution to the Middle Eastern conflict. What will all those, who consider Israel as Reshis Tzemihas Geulatenu, do then, when Zionism is proved to be a modern version of Shabthaism?

    Ariel: I do not think that but “Jewish sovereignty” the Vilna Gaon meant a state like Israel is today, although Mr. Netanyahu is a descendant of him.

  • Yaron says:

    RB,
    No one is denying the political climate of the time. But what proof do you have that God was not involved?

    A person is atheist they will say it was purely political.

    A religious Jew will see it as God directing the historical realities.

    And if the person is Hareidi they will deny reality and claim the state does not really exist.

  • R B says:

    Yaron,

    The fact that the state exists and it defines itself as a Jewish state (although people can debate whether it is qualifies for this definition), can be. at the same time, a result of G-d’s directions – but not a step to the way to the Geu’la, but providing a solution for an actual, immediate problem.

    R B

  • Yaron says:

    RB,

    So are we restricted to one reason for every historical event? That seems a little simplistic for my liking.

    I choose to believe that there are a multiplicity of historical reasons that lead to the creation of the State. One of which was the guiding hand of God, one the political environment, the post-Holocaust feeling towards the Jews, and even a hope for the foundations of a messianic state (whatever that may mean).

    But all that has little to do with the prayers of Yom Haatzmaut, which are thanksgiving for what happened in 1948.

  • R B says:

    Yaron,

    I disagree with you regarding the “hope for the foundations of a messianic state” as a reason for the establishment of Israel. There were multiple reasons, but this was not one of them. The major force which pushed for that on the ground event was secular – with or without the guiding hand of G-D.

    What happened in 1948 might have been a reason for thanksgiving back then, when the special prayer was set. Let me doubt it in 2012, when Israel is the most dangerous place for Jews on earth, a place where half of the Jewish people can be exterminated in a button press; the place where more people were killed because they were Jews, than in any other place since 1945; a place where millions of Jews shed their Jewish identity in favor of an “Israeli” identity, without considering this as assimilation, just like the Anglos here stopped being “British” and became “Australians”; a place where Judaism became a subject for political horse trade; etc etc.

  • abc says:

    If praying to G-d means anything, and if anyone goes to shul at any time of the year then praying should mean something (unless they admit that they have no intellectual consistency), then one should thank G-d for giving us the State of Israel – (one of) the greatest events in the last few hundred years of Jewish history.

    It’s funny how religious people are criticised for ignoring history, and then, most bizarrely, criticised for acknowledging it in a religious way.

    Yaron – you’re being unfair to the Mizrachi service. Yes, there are speeches, which is possibly unnecessary, but 1 hr 5 mins (which is what is was this year) is not really overdoing it for a Chag. If the Chag is meaningful, then I think we can spare that amount of time, especially if we want to incorporate Yom Hazikaron tefillot, and we do (which is why it has to start before sunset).

    Having said that, I agree strongly with Mark’s original suggestion. Let us show that we value YH just as we value Pesach – by having a special tefilla in our shuls just as we do on Pesach.

  • Yaron says:

    RB,

    The Hashmonaim were one of the most corrupt and violent rulers in history within 2 generations, yet we still celebrate Hanuka.

    The long term story of Purim was also not happy with most of the Jews remaining in Persia rather than return to Israel, yet that is still a festival.

    No matter what you think of Israel, it is important that we celebrate this day, and recognise the significance.

    abc,
    I have no issue with the Mizrachi prayers existing, even if I personally find them painful and will never go back.

    My issue is that people want to block any other tefilla.

    At Katanga the service went for just over 1/2 hour. It was not rushed, and was festive in its nature. It was then followed by a small seudat hoda’a (thanksgiving meal) as befitted the day.

  • ariel says:

    I tend to agree with Yaron.

    I’m not sure why people are willing to say a bracha over candles on Chanuka to recall the winning of a war and discovery of olive oil on 25 Kislev, or are willing to say several brachot at the Pesach seder to remember our deliverance from slavery to freedom on 14 Nissan, yet not willing to understand that some wish to say a bracha of thanksgiving for deliverance from destruction to national sovreignty on 5 Iyar.

  • R B says:

    Because without the Exodus of Egypt, our pepole would not exist.

    Without the Purim miracle, our people whould have been exterminated.

    And without Israel… well, I thinks that Jews have better and safer existence out of of Israel than in Israel, isn’t it?

  • Yaron says:

    RB,
    And what about Succot? That is celebrating a step in our development as a people. The protection we received in the desert.

    Here there is another step in our development, a state and sovereignty for the first time in 2000 years.

    Is this not something to celebrate? Or do you only celebrate when things are perfect?

  • R B says:

    Yaron,

    In my view, Israel is a step towards our disintegration as a people, not development as a people.

    I already discussed the separation between “Jews” and “Israelis”, which are becoming two separate peoples. Israel created extreme hatred between religious and less religious Jews, between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, etc.

    Jews and Judaism have prospered along history, when living in Jewish frameworks which were non-enforcing, free and voluntary. A Jewish state is just the opposite.

  • Ian Waller says:

    In his initial posting Mark Symons wrote:

    “But I believe that the best way to increase attendance and participation is to abandon the attempt at the community service, and for Yom Ha’atzmaut prayer to be reclaimed by the individual congregations. It’s time to treat Yom Ha’atzmaut as a “real” chag – so that just as each individual congregation holds its own service, in its own way, for Pesach, Rosh Hashana, and Purim, so they should now do for Chag Ha’atzmaut.”

    As Yom Yerushalayim falls on Sunday 20 May this year, rather than having a communal Ma’ariv tefilla on Motzei Shabbat, Mizrachi will host its own tefilla chagigit and on Sunday morning there will be a communal tefilla under the joint auspices of Mizrachi, the COSV and the RCV at Mizrachi at 8.00 am followed by a festive l’chaim.

    While all are welcome to attend both tefillot at Mizrachi, the special arrangements this year will enable every congregation to conduct its own tefilla chagigit on Motzei Shabbat and to join in a communal tefilla the following morning. This will enable all congregations to “reclaim” this important tefillah for themselves while also joining together with the community as a whole to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim in a spirit of achdut.

  • ariel says:

    RB,

    I think we are trying to compare apples with oranges and thus the discussion is not progressing.

    I would like to clarify:
    Yaron and I are talking about the establishment of the State of Israel and the events of 1948.

    You seem to be talking about the state of the State of Israel in 2012.

    All of us agree that Israel in 2012 is not a uptopia.

    The question is, are you thankful for Israel’s establishment and very existence, as opposed to the behaviour and modus operandus of some parts of its population and its more recent governments?

  • Seraphya says:

    If I had known that it was Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence talking I might have gone this year. I remember last year dashing like mad out of uni and skipping a class to get to the tefilah on time. I was so uninspired and there were plenty of extra seats to go around. So many rabbis from different shules had to have their turns taking part regardless of whether they were Zionist or not. It dragged on in ceremony rather than being a tefilah chagigit.

    Side note: I can’t stand the ‘concert’ either because it is also mostly about making sure everyone has their turn with their kids on the stage and so on. It is just not meaningful.

    Next year it would be nice if there was a minyan like the katanga one again. Especially considering it won’t be a public holiday here in Victoria in the Galus of Australia.

    There is no reason to view Yom Ha’atzmaut as decisive politically or religiously. I keep my Zionism mostly detached from my religion just to make sure that some crazy messianism doens’t slip in. As others have said everyone celebrates Jewish holidays in different religious or secular ways. There is every reason for a religiously observant Jew to attend a festive tefillah and then follow it up with whatever is meaningful to them. This could be the concert, a BBQ with meat or soy products (which is how most people in Israel would actually celebrate), or participating in a discussion about contemporary Israeli issues.

    As for Yom Yerushalim. I find it hard to keep the politics out of this one. It has been embraced by the right-wing. So much so that people who were participating in the celebrations and wearing shirts that identified them with left of centre youth groups were questioned by authorities and instructed to change their shirts so as not to incite anything. The celebrations are also used as an excuse to frighten and bully the Arab population of Jerusalem. I had people threaten to break my camera after I took a picture of this occurring.

    Having said that, I don’t think that Yom Yerushalim originally was divisive or has to be in the future. From a religious prospective of saying Hallel it seems very clear to me. Israel really feared that it was the end. They thought they were chocked off by naval blockades and thousands of graves were prepared to bury the masses of casualties expected, and no rescue was seen possible. That Israel survived and even thrived is a miracle of the sort that Hallel should be said for like for Purim and חנוכה. As for the the more secular side of things, we now have peace with Egypt and Jordan at least partially because of the six day war.

    Still the focus on the “reunification” of Jerusalem is for many very problematic. There are still two Jerusalem’s which receive very different levels of service and barely interact with one another. The reunification of Jerusalem was originally about Israeli Jews being able to return to the old city and to the neighborhoods and holy places from which they were kicked out. It was about being able to walk the streets safely and not having to be careful of snipers along streets with a makeshift wall in the middle. “reunification” has since turned into a concept used by the ideological right to mean putting in clusters of Jews into the middle of Arab neighborhoods and setting up guard stations instead of trying to lessen resentment from their new neighbors. It means applying zoning laws and other laws selectively to the detriment of East Jerusalem’s Arabs.

    There is no reason though that the left or the centre should abandon the concept of Jerusalem, which is central to Zionism, to the extreme right. The reunification of Jerusalem can just as equally mean the effort to connect the two Jerusalems. This can be by means of public transport, such as we see in the new light rail (Ever notice that Egged doesn’t go to the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem?). This can mean working on improving cultural ties or helping East Jerusalem have better access to plumbing, sewage, roads and other infrastructure.

    While some to the far Left may still have a problem with creating facts on the ground that may preclude a future Palestinian state having East Jerusalem as a capital, I think there is still plenty for even them to celebrate on Jerusalem Day. The Kotel is not going to be ceded by Israel and whatever exactly happens there is no reason that fostering communication and exchange from both Jerusalems should be frowned upon. Jerusalem symbolizes peace, I am sure you can find something in it for everyone…

  • ariel says:

    Well said, Seraphya!

  • George Weiss says:

    Yom haatzmaut will neverbe a genuine religios holiday as long as “genuine”religious Jews ignore it.
    In that category i include virtuaaly all charedim and chasidim evenn of those rebbes who did show some excitement at the states foundatio eg sadigure

    same thing with yom yerushalayim where even more charedi leaders first recited hallel. These days i dont know of a single group that does.

    As for melbs rabbis attending the annual mizrachi affair, i would guess that 85% of them do it for ‘parnasa’reasons and not because they believe it isa chag

    so i say leave it with the mizrachi the only true believers(though i doubt that their rabbi is one).
    And i say this despite the fact that even there approx 40-50% of the membership find better things to do that night

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